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Sociology 2206A/B
Georgios Fthenos

The Ethics of Social research Lecture #3 Chapters 11,17,18 January 28,2014 Importance of ethics • In many sciences, ethics are always important • Many examples of unethical research in the past: - Tuskegee (1932-1972): syphilis study: AfricanAmerican men with syphilis recruited into study on “natural course” of disease, natural course of untreated syphilis. - Why problematic: Black men did not know they had syphilis and under impression they were receiving free health care from the government, because it was a government led study, when in fact they were not being treated at all, just being watched for progression of disease. - In the 1940’s, penicillin was found to cure it, and they were not treated- they were withheld beneficial treatment; there was no consent from the black men, racism. - It became public in 1972, study was immediately ended • The Nazis during the war, experiments going on in the concentration camp • Laud Humphreys tearoom trade- Study of sexual deviance • Stanley Milgram’s shock treatment experiments- deceives subjects to determine their willingness to obey authority • Sometimes it is ok to use deception if it is good for the greater good Protections for human subjects • Ethical code of conduct established- research ethics board, established rules every researcher needs to follow, asks many details- who, what, where, when, why, how. Picks it apart, and asks researchers to fix parts • Informed consent: participants need to be fully informed about the nature and aims of the study, along with risks (such as psychological harm), and benefits • Voluntary participation- if at any point you become uncomfortable, you can leave, if you don’t like the questions, you can leave, you have no obligation • Privacy and confidentiality- research is published, so no names will be published, pseudo names are used • Institutional review board (IRB) based on common rule- evaluate research protocols for legal and ethical compliance- human and animal research must go through this • Take special precautions when looking at vulnerable populations such as gangs, visible minorities, prostitutes, minors, prisoners, pregnant women • Researchers MUST document ethical compliance and report any adverse events- such as the subject attacking you, or you hear about a possible murder attempt- researcher has a bit of obligation, even if info is confidential.Also those are being interviewed can report to the board The informed Consent Letter • Required by the IRB • Needs to be signed by subject being interviewed • MUST be written in terms understandable to the subject, they must be able to understand what the study is about • Key elements in informed consent letter: - Statement that the project involves research - Specification of research project aims - Identification of potential risks and benefits (therapeutic, networking) - Recognition of voluntary nature of subjects participation - Strict rules regarding compensation- because it would make it a bias research, might change responses; social desirability - Statement that subject has the right to refuse or withdraw before, during, or after initial participation - Degree of confidentiality (records, data storage, write-up) - IRB contact number Informed consent in practice: • Some researchers have been careless with informed consent - Carless research practice can have disastrous consequences for research subjects, researchers, and university research programs • Full disclosure is key to securing informed consent Ethical dilemmas in social research Covert or deceptive research in which some information is intentionally withheld from subjects - If approved by IRB, close supervision of faculty advisor and IRB is a must, along with knowledge of legal and ethical obligation- not harmful to lie just a bit, a greater good will come out of it- most often in psychological research - As the potential risks associated with a study increase, so must the potential benefits (risk-benefit ratio) - able to be done in naturalistic setting Involves: • The social researcher participating fully without informing members of the social group of the reasons for his or her presence, thus the research is carried out secretly or covertly • Contact with a “gatekeeper”; a member of the group under study who will introduce the researcher into the group Problems: 1. The researcher having to become involved in criminal or dangerous activities, particularly where the research is studying a ‘deviant’social group 2. Having to act out forms of behavior which the researcher may personally find unethical or disgraceful 3. The researcher having to employ a level of deceit, since the researcher is essentially lying about the nature of his or her presence within the group 4. Close friendships are often resulting from connections with members of the group under the study ad the covert nature of the research can put tremendous strain on the researcher, both in and out of fieldwork setting 5. The problem of ‘going native’ which refers to the fact that a researcher will cease to be a researcher and will become a full time group participant Advantages: 1. The researcher may gain access to social groups who would otherwise not consent to being studied 2. The avoidance of problems of ‘observer effect’, the conception that individuals behavior may change if they know they are being studied Overt observation: Involves: 1. The researcher being open about the research for her presence in the filed of study since the researcher is given permission by the group to conduct research. 2. The use of a ‘sponsor’, who is an individual likely to occ
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